Loitering with Intent (New Directions Paperbook)
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Where does art start or reality end?
Happily loitering about London, c. 1949, with the intent of gathering material for her writing, Fleur Talbot finds a job “on the grubby edge of the literary world” at the very peculiar Autobiographical Association. Mad egomaniacs writing their memoirs in advance ― or poor fools ensnared by a blackmailer? When the association’s pompous director steals Fleur’s manuscript, fiction begins to appropriate life.
intended this to come out as one of those inane helpless things people say at moments of hysteria and shock. But it does transpire that he dies and it does in fact transpire that the mask is off, not on, for the rest of his life. His life, that is, in the pages of my novel, after Prudence, against the wishes of the rest of the family, confides Warrender’s letters and other documents to the American scholar, Proudie. In my novel the documents were already in Proudie’s hands when I began to see the
sign. “You haven’t brought home the tragedy of Warrender’s death,” Dottie had said. Which hadn’t bothered me, either. Anyway, this was the new chapter which is written from Roland’s point of view. Which was that his uncle, Warrender Chase, had been a great man tragically cut off in his prime; it has been abundantly acknowledged, it is a public commonplace. He has successfully established his importance. The family, secretly enjoying their stricken status, are counting on Roland and Marjorie to
received a printed acknowledgement of the proofs and now I was waiting for publication. Dottie said, “Oh!” Another day came Mrs. Wilks in her pastel hues, and her veils, and a wet purple umbrella which she refused to give up to Beryl Tims. She had lost her fat, merry look. I had noticed the last time I saw her that she was losing weight, but now it was quite obvious she had either been very ill or was on a diet. Her painted-up face was shrivelled, making her nose too long; her eyes were big and
assive, receptive, all knowing. I thought in that moment ’twere sweet to die. My dearest, I would that we could die together. Had I not my Mission which I, and I alone, am subtly illed to fulfil. But who are your riends? Where are they? Be not discomfited. I etc. etc. Above letter to Bucks? Yes, I have done it. And delivered it!! But Now what infuriated me more than anything in these scraps of Quentin Oliver’s diary was this last entry, 2nd May. It was straight out of Warrender Chase,
“you know, Bucks, I thought your piece was very much you. My dear, the atmosphere as the curtain rises as it were. As the curtain rises on you in the empty church. In the empty church with the fragrance of incense and you praying to the Madonna in your hour of need. I was carried away, Bucks. I mean it. Then comes Father Delaney and lays his hand on your shoulder —” “I wasn’t there. It wasn’t I.” This was Father Egbert Delaney speaking up. “There is a mistake here that needs rectifying.” He